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synthetic drugs

Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic marijuana contains a man-made chemical called a synthetic cannabinoid. These mimic the effects of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the main active ingredient in cannabis or marijuana. Since 2009, the use of synthetic marijuana has spread across the United States. Unfortunately, people who consume this addictive drug expose themselves to a range of serious, severe or even fatal mental and physical health complications. Let’s take a closer look at this growing problem.

What Is Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana was created in laboratories by researchers studying the impact of THC. Their use quickly spread beyond these controlled settings and entered the world of illicit and illegal substances. There are now synthetic marijuanas added to hundreds of plant-based products that go by names such as:

  • K2
  • Spice
  • Kronic
  • Kush
  • Joker

To avoid action from federal agencies, manufacturers market these products as incense or potpourri. With the rise of e-cigarettes, some manufacturers have also started selling synthetic cannabinoids in liquid form.

Why Is It Dangerous?

While synthetic cannabinoids mimic the basic effects of THC, they are much stronger. Any given chemical in this group is at least twice as potent as THC. Some chemicals exceed the potency of THC by 10 times or more. This means that anyone who uses synthetic marijuana receives a larger dose of active ingredients than using actual marijuana. To make things worse, products that contain synthetic marijuana are not monitored or regulated in any way. This means that people who use these products have no idea which specific cannabinoid they’re consuming. They also have no idea about the potency of a product or how much cannabinoid it contains per dose. For these reasons, each incidence of synthetic marijuana use resembles Russian roulette.

What Can Happen to You?

Because they access the same part of the brain as THC, synthetic marijuana produces some of the same basic effects. Because these manmade chemicals are stronger than THC, they produce more intense forms of these brain changes. This fact helps explain the growing popularity of synthetic marijuana. Unfortunately, it also explains why synthetic marijuana poses such a danger.

Psychosis, Suicidal Thinking and Aggression — Marijuana has a reputation as a relatively harmless drug. Researchers and doctors have long known that heavy users will develop a highly damaging psychosis. Common symptoms of this state include:

  • Powerful hallucinations
  • Delusional and/or paranoid thinking
  • Inability to form clear thoughts
  • Mental agitation
  • Severe anxiety

Since synthetic marijuana is stronger than THC, synthetic marijuana users have a greater chance of developing psychosis. Synthetic marijuana users also have increased risks for involvement in suicidal thinking or acts of aggression toward other people.

Changes in Physical Health — Synthetic marijuana can trigger changes in your physical health. The underlying source of risk is the sometimes extreme potency of synthetic cannabinoids. Potential problems include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drastically increased heart rate
  • Spikes in blood pressure
  • Muscle tremors or spasms
  • Full-body seizures
  • Cardiac arrest (complete stoppage of the heart)

In a worst-case scenario, a person under the influence of synthetic marijuana may stop breathing and die. Any of these issues can occur even at very low dosages. Since 2009, poison control centers have received thousands of calls about users in serious physical distress.

Addiction — Addiction is a risk for habitual or heavy users. Since synthetic marijuana acta on the brain in the same way as THC, the same risk of addiction is present. Anyone who regularly uses this drug can develop symptoms of addiction. These may include the onset of withdrawal when consumption stops. Indications of withdrawal in a synthetic marijuana user include:

  • Depressed state of mind
  • Anxious state of mind
  • Unusually irritable state of mind
  • Headaches

If you or a loved one is struggling with symptoms or addiction that is affecting your life, Promises Treatment Center can help. Our highly experienced staff of medical and behavioral health professionals is ready to help you get your life back on track. We’re here for you, and we want to help. Call us today for a free, confidential consultation.

Posted on September 22, 2016 and modified on April 27, 2019

Krisi Herron

Medically Reviewed by

Krisi Herron, LCDC

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